The Weather Changes Everything

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes in slow motion.

Here and in many other places in the northern U. S. the weather has been unseasonably cold.
People have mentioned the now dreaded term Polar Vortex, though technically that isn’t what is happening.

Still, we have yet to see temperatures hit 90F, and for some of the veggies growing, this is confusing.

The hardest hit are the real heat lovers like sweet potatoes, and the cold weather crops like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.

The sweet potatoes thrive in the heat, and with the cooler temperatures they are growing, but slowly.
Fortunately they are in a bed that can be turned into a high tunnel and the season extended.

cauliflower

Cauliflower, waiting.

The coles are just sitting there. Normally by this time of year they would have either been harvested, or if it was a very hot summer, bolted.
But neither has taken place; they are healthy plants, but confused at the same time.

It isn’t hot enough to make them bolt, and it isn’t cool enough to make them produce heads.

cabbage

Cabbage, on hold.

It is going to be really interesting to see what happens in the fall, we’ll get back to you on that.

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Categories: Addiction, gardening, plant problems

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How to Grow Ground Cherries

ground cherries

Their name makes sense.

Ground cherries, a relative of tomatoes and looking very similar to their closer cousin tomatillos, are cherry sized and drop to the ground where they ripen.

Now if that sounds kind of messy to you, it really isn’t. Like a tomatillo, they are wrapped in a papery shell which keeps them clean.

Start seeds indoors the same time as tomatoes, about 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost. Plant them when the soil is warm, setting the transplants in deep also like tomatoes.
The plants are pretty hardy and can take most soil types, but do better in a loose soil that allows for root growth.

Ground cherries also will develop more roots along any part of the stem that is below ground, helping them to take in more nutrients.

They produce many pretty small yellow flowers, and the tiny fruit will be ready to harvest about the same time as your tomatoes.

ground cherries

They start dropping to the ground at a green stage. When the husks turn a deep yellow, the fruit are ready to eat.

The taste has just a hint of tomato, but is much more like candy; very tart and sweet and rather addictive.
Prepare as you would berries or other fruit.

Botanical Name: Physalis spp.
AKA: Cape Gooseberry, Gooseberry, Strawberry Husk Tomato, Husk tomato
Spacing: 3 ft.
Hardiness: Anywhere you can grow a tomato.
Days to maturity: About 65 days to drop, a few more to ripen.
Harvest: As they fall, eat when the husks turn dark yellow.
Yield: Prolific.
Storage: They hold up well in the refrigerator. Freeze with the husks off. If you have any left, that is. Can as a jam or fruit chutney.
Pests & Diseases: Same as tomatoes.

Categories: ground cherries

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Zucchini – When More is Less

Costata Romanesco zucchini

First this one popped up.

My husband Mandolin Jones always jokes that “Two zucchini plants are at least one too many.”

It is not hard to understand his thinking.
Back in our restaurant days it what quite common for us to find ‘donations’ of surplus green squash on our stoop.
The local gardeners knew they would not go to waste.

So over the years we kind of backed off on the zucchini.
We tried a few varieties, including one hybrid called Cashflow, that would have lived up to its name if we were selling them.

If was only a few years ago that an heirloom called Costata Romanesco caught my eye. It wasn’t very prolific, but distinctive in its appearance and the taste was far superior to any others we had grown.

I’ll admit I got caught up in trying new varieties, forgot about that one, and Mandolin seemed less than interested in any of them.

It wasn’t until this past spring when I found a small packet of seeds I had saved, that I thought about that delightful heirloom. Hoping that the parent plant had not cross pollinated with another squash, I gave it a go.

And gone it was.

Apparently either the birds or the voles took the seeds, or so I thought.
So I planted again.

As good luck would have it, 1 of the first batch did finally sprout, then later on 2 from the second sowing.
Older seeds don’t always germinate as well as fresh ones.

Costata Romanesco zucchini

And then…

So on a recent walk through the garden Mandolin asked “Is this zucchini?”
“Yes.”

“And this is zucchini too, right? Three plants?”

I paused.
“Yes.”

He paused, and took a closer look.

“Is that the delicious variety you grew a few years ago?”
“Yes, yes it is.”

“Good,” he said, “I liked those.”

Sometimes I guess, you just get lucky.

More on this variety.
Zucchini- When 2 Plants are are Least One Too Many on Pinterest

Categories: squash

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6 Warm Weather Plants to Grow in Colder Areas

Baby Clementines

Baby Clementines

You are not as limited by your growing region as you might think.
Over the last few years we have discovered there are more plants that can be grown in a cooler region, like here in the northeast zone 5/6, than we thought possible.

1. Meyer Lemons

We purchased a grafted tree that can be grown in a pot. Lemon trees can take cold temperatures to just below freezing, and we have heard of many gardeners in the north keeping theirs in a greenhouse through the winter.
Our intention is to bring it indoors instead, as the flowers have a wonderful scent and the plant is attractive.

There are already a number of tiny lemons just this first season, and hopefully they were pollinated well enough that they will develop into lemons.
Admittedly, we used our tuning fork to help hedge that bet.

2. Clementines

Growing similarly and close by is another grafted tree that will produce Mandolin Jones’ favorite fruit. This is also in its first season and already loaded with tiny fruit.
Like the lemon tree, this will be coming indoors for the winter.

3. Avocado

Now in its second year, the avocado tree will be flowering later in the season.
Last year it did produce 8 fruit, all of which were accidentally knocked off in 3 separate accidents.
We have learned to be much more careful with our special trees now, particularly when moving them back indoors.

4. Ginger

This is the second round for growing ginger from a store bought root.
You can read all about it here. The main thing we have since learned is that we prefer homegrown so much, that we are going to need at least one more pot of it to get through the year.

You’ve got to love the added benefit of never having to buy ginger again.

5. Turmeric

A relative of ginger, turmeric is grown pretty much the same way. Our roots that were covered in soil sprouted better than ones placed just on top, like the ginger root was.

It is supposed to produce a few months sooner and we are looking forward to prepping it in the same way we did the ginger.

6. Wasabi

This is the newest plant to join the array of unusual things to grow, and the one we are having the most difficult time with. Wasabi prefers to be in the shade and it requires lots of water.
That combination can easily lead to a mold issue, so we have found that it also needs air circulating about it.

Which in turn leads to a need for more water.

So yes, admittedly keeping this plant alive has been a test of our gardening dedication. Especially because at a DTM of 2 years, it will also be the plant growing the longest before it can be harvested.

Homegrown Turmeric

Homegrown Turmeric

Categories: gardening, How to Grow, The Experiments

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How to Store Onions

You’ll know your onions are ready to pick when, like garlic, they lie down. There are a few different ways to store them.

For keeping indoors in your fridge or any cool, dry place, let cure outside in the sun for a few days. Then just trim the tops and wash off any dirt, you are good to go.

gardening jones preps onions for storage

2 wooden horses and an old screen is all you need

When I recently told Mandolin I had read not to store onions in the fridge, he just chuckled and shook his head.

We have been doing that for years with good success.

drying onions in the home garden

mmm...onions

We freeze some of the onions that will just be used in soups or to can later in the fall in salsa. No preparation needed, just peel, chop, spread out on a foil lined sheet, freeze and store.

gardeningjones bring the onions in

a sink full of onions waiting patiently

You can also to roast/dehydrate some of the fresh cut green tops. You can use a commercial dehydrator but for onions, an iron skillet will add flavor to the end product.

Very lightly oil and place on medium heat while you chop the onion tops as evenly as possible. Then place in the warm skillet and reduce the heat to the lowest setting possible. It will take a few hours until your onions are crisp to the touch. Store in any food grade container on your shelf.

Dried this way they add a mild and toasty flavor to your food, and a little color to boot.

gardening jones dehyrdrating onion tops

dehydrating green onion tops

There are still plenty of onions growing in the garden, yet the sight conjures memories of a fall day not too long from now and homemade Three Onion Soup.

gardening jones onion fields

still plenty of onions and leeks left

No hurry though, it can wait ;-)

Categories: drying-roasting, How to Store

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How to Plan a Fall Garden

Fall peas

Peas Round #2

In the southern states a fall garden means starting tomatoes and such indoors, as the fall is the best growing time for them.

To our neighbors far north, planning for the fall would involve at least low tunnels and cold frames.

This post is for everyone in between.

Succession planting, or following one plant with another, is a great way to make the most of the space you have.

At this time of year, your peas have probably started to die off. You cold weather crops are either in or beginning to bolt. And anything over-wintered is likely going to seed.

This means some space will be available for crops that can take cooler temperatures.

Here in the zone 5/6 Jones’ garden we have already sown our second crop of peas. Early maturing garlic was followed by plantings of winter squash.

fall squash

Squash catching up.

In between the rows of onions, which are starting to show signs they are ready to harvest, we have direct sown seeds of cabbage for a fall crock of sauerkraut.

As the potatoes are harvested, turnips and rutabaga seeds will go in. Where the spinach bolted, more carrot seeds were planted.

These are all veggies that can take the cold; and that is the main piece of information you need to know about following one crop with another.

The other things are what ‘days to maturity‘ actually means, and when your first frost in the fall is expected.

That way you can better time what you are planting to mature in the fall or even into winter.

When we first started gardening we used to think we could only grow food from the end of May until the frost in the fall.

Now we know we can garden pretty much all year ’round.
Experience really is the best teacher.

Categories: extending the season, gardening

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Make Like a Bee & Help Pollinate Your Tomatoes

growing tomatoes

David L. Green is a gentleman we e-met on Facebook, who has a great deal of knowledge about the pollination process. In many cases, we consider him to be a go-to expert.

On a few occasions, when a fellow gardener asked about lack of pollination on their tomato, eggplant and/or pepper plants, he advised them to use a tuning fork to help move the pollen about the flower and increase the plant’s chances of producing fruit.

What a fascinating concept.

Music is much more complex than you might think.
It has a mathematical component and also a physical side, and is part of the fiber of nature itself.

The most common tuning fork will vibrate at the same frequency as the note middle C, which is about 250 hz.
What is interesting is that this approximates the frequency of the beating of a bee’s wings.

You see, bees can help move pollen in 2 ways. First by getting it on themselves and then getting it on a female flower. This is the way a bee can help squashes for example, and the way most people think of bees helping.

The other way is the vibration caused by the beating of their wings.
In this way bees can help plants whose flowers have both male and female components, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
The vibration can help shift that pollen enough to get it on to the female reproductive part, helping it to develop fruit.

Of course this is not the only way to move pollen on these plants, the wind can help also as can other insects.

For those gardeners who live in an area where there is not a lot of breeze or bees, the tuning fork is a simple and successful solution.
Just whack it on something hard, and touch the fork to the flower’s stem.

Be the bee, so to speak.

Thanks David!

Here’s an inexpensive one that we purchased:

Categories: gardening, plant problems, techniques

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How to Grow Turmeric

turmeric rhizomes

Grub-like rhizomes.

This is one of the fun gardening experiments of the year, and is mostly inspired by the sheer determination to be able to grow curry.

Turmeric is a relative of ginger, and does grow pretty much the same way.
In our case it differed in that it took almost 6 weeks to sprout.

We planted some the end of April, some a few inches under the potting soil, and a few others close to the soil level; which we have learned ginger prefers.

Nothing.

Still nothing.

how to grow turmeric

June 6

It wasn’t until early June that any life-signs were seen.
To be honest we had all but given up on it, so perhaps the less frequent watering challenged it to grow.
Or perhaps, because turmeric actually likes water, the rhizomes we purchased were not very fresh.

From what we can see it is the more shallow-planted rhizomes that have sprouted. You can find these fresh at stores that cater to populations from India and Asian countries.
We found ours on Amazon.

If you have never used turmeric, it is was gives curried dishes, mustard and stir fried rice their yellow tint.
It is also considered to be very healthy for you.

how to grow turmeric

One month later.

It takes about 8 months to grow, a little less than ginger.
So here in the northeast it is outside in the sun now, but will come back indoors when the weather starts to cool.

Like its cousin, we expect it will be a pretty houseplant.

That is until we dump it for the ‘gold’ that lies below the soil.

Botanical name: Curcuma longa
Hardiness: Prefers temperatures between 70F and 90F
Height: About 3 ft.
Days to Maturity: 8 months, give or take.
Uses: Culinary, medicinal and as a dye.
Storage: Store fresh for quite a while, dehydrate and then grind into a powder as needed. Like ginger, it could probably be pickled. Follow the link to Ginger above for the recipe.

Categories: ginger, turmeric, The Experiments

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How to Help Veggies Grow Vertically

luffa plants

Luffas’ tendrils grab onto anything.

There are some plants that grow vertically so naturally, that all you need to do is have a support nearby.
Cucumbers, pole beans and peas, and luffas are wonderful examples of edible plants whose system of tendrils helps them grow up just about anything.

And then there are plants, most notably tomatoes, that are not meant to grow vertically but usually are. Prettify much every gardeners supports their tomato plants in some way, be it a stake, a cage, the Florida weave, or an overhead system.
Supporting tomatoes helps keep those soft fruits from rotting and makes them a little bit less susceptible to bugs and disease.
The stems are hearty enough to handle the weight of the fruit.
Well, in most cases that is.

We did once see a picture of a tomato so large and heavy that it snapped the stem on the plant.
But that’s the exception not the rule.

There are other vining plants like tomatoes that can be grown vertically with just a little assistance.

sugar baby watermelon

Sugar baby melon happily hanging.

Melons are a vining crop as are many varieties of squash, particularly the winter squash but also some summer types.
In both cases there are two main ways the gardener can help their plants grow vertically.

The first is to be sure the structure to be used can support the combined weight of the ripe fruit.
In this regard it helps if the variety you plant produces a smaller fruit.
For example, a Moon and Stars watermelon might not be as good a choice as a Sugar Baby watermelon. As the name implies, Sugar baby produces one of the smallest melons and therefore is easy to grow vertically.

The other thing a gardener can do is to help support the fruit on the vine.
Like the very large tomato mentioned above, heavy fruit can easily cause stress and damage to the vine.
By using an airy fabric such as the mesh store bought onions or oranges come in, or a sheer nylon like pantyhose are made from, the gardener can help take some of the weight off the plant and put it onto the structure.

It is important that what is used will dry easily after a rain.

Tatume squash

Tatume squash being supported.

Simply wrap the fruit in a sling-like fashion, and tie it to the support. This not only takes the weight off the plant, it gives the fruit plenty of room to grow.

If you do not have anything to use on hand, you can buy netting type fabric inexpensively wherever fabric is sold. Remember you can keep using it year after year.

Growing whatever you can vertically is a great way to get more from the space you have, and also help protect your plants from some critters.

And that’s a gardening win-win.

Here’s a wee bit more.

Categories: gardening, techniques

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$100′s of Food in a Small Space – You Can Grow That!

The Jones' Garden System

Early light harvest of greens while zucchini heads up vertically.

Since you are reading this you are probably already a gardener, congrats!
Perhaps you have a lot of space that you would like to optimize, or maybe you just want to get more from a smaller area.

There are gardening techniques that have been around for thousands of years that can help you do just that.

The Jones' Garden System

25 corn plants with bush and pole beans

Intensive gardening is a technique that incolves planting veggies close together, even in the shade of one another, to get more from the space. Of course you will need to be diligent so as to not have disease issues, and to be sure all plants have the water and nutrients they need.

Succession planting allows you to replenish then refill up spaces as they open.
So you have pulled those early planted carrots, how much time do you have for another crop?

Growing vertically, from the typical peas and beans to the more unusual squash and melons adds even more bounty in the same space.

The Jones' Garden System

Keeping plants warm in early spring.

When you utilize season extenders like those pictured above, you can increase the quantity you harvest by as much as 50% here in the zone 5/6 area. The actual amount depends on your climate.

That’s a lot.
These pics are of the test model of a garden system we designed primarily for those in suburban areas, but with everyone in mind.
After 3 years of testing we found we can pretty much double our harvest by using the techniques mentioned above, as well as the built in critter protection.

The Jones' Garden System

10 tomato plants with basil below.

Now we don’t want to be a commercial on our blog. :-P
If you would like to learn more, click here.

In the meantime, know that however much space you have, there are fun and really easy ways to make the most of that.

More veggies? Yeah…

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world who want to help everyone enjoy growing.
For more posts on other gardening topics, just click on the logo above.
Happy Gardening!

Categories: gardening, techniques, you can grow that

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Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2014 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

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